Microcurrent Facial Devices: The Expert Guide

Like exercise for your face—but do they work?

a model with toned skin wearing a velvet blazer
(Image credit: Arturo Holmes)

If I'm being honest with myself, about 80 percent of my obsession with David Bowie has to do with his cheekbones and overall sharp-edged, contoured face. So you can imagine why at-home microcurrent devices, like the famed NuFace and Foreo, appeal to me. A non-invasive, at-home treatment that takes me one step closer to achieving the David Bowie jawline of my dreams? Count me in. 

But let's be real: at-home microcurrent devices are expensive. If I'm going to shell out a couple hundred dollars, I want to be sure that the tool is worth the hype—and know exactly how to use it. To get all the answers and find out if microcurrent devices are truly worth the splurge, I turned to Dr. Karan Lal, board-certified dermatologist and purveyor of skin truths. Below, he breaks down exactly what microcurrent devices do, who they work best for, and how to incorporate them into your skincare routine. 

What does microcurrent therapy do to your face?

In short, microcurrent therapy is exercise for your face. "Microcurrent therapy uses low-level electric voltage to stimulate the muscles in the face," explains Dr. Lal. Just like putting time in at the gym will help create definition, consistently using microcurrent devices will make the jawline and facial contours look lifted and toned. 

While the treatment can be performed in spas or dermatologist's offices as part of a facial, there are plenty of handheld devices you can use from the comfort of your own home for similar results. 

What are the benefits of microcurrent therapy?

As time goes on, the muscle system that coordinates our facial expressions becomes weaker, leading to sagging and drooping. "This therapy stimulates this system, causing the muscles to perk up. This therapy is often used in physical therapy and has been shown in studies to promote wound healing," Dr. Lal says.

How should I use a microcurrent device?

While instructions for how to use microcurrent facial devices will vary from product to product, there are a few commonalities. You'll always want to start with clean skin. After washing your face, apply the conductive gel that accompanies your tool. The jelly-like activator is key—it helps the microcurrent reach your muscles. 

When will I see results from a microcurrent device?

It's important to manage expectations when using a microcurrent device. While consistent use over time will create a lifted appearance, the results are not permanent. If you're looking for a one-and-done solution or dramatic fix, a face lift or injections are likely better options. 

"Most facial massages will decrease inflammation, swelling, and provide some level of lift, all of which is temporary," says Dr. Lal. "Just like exercise, gains aren’t made overnight and persistence is key."

How is a microcurrent device different from an in-office microcurrent facial?

"In office treatments are expensive and results are transient," warns Dr. Lal. "Most practitioners recommend a series of beginning treatments followed by maintenance treatments and the cost adds up."

While at-home devices aren't as powerful or targeted as in-office facials, they'll likely save you money in the long run. "For people who are persistent, they may prove to be more economical than in-office treatments," Dr. Lal says. 

Are there any risks to microcurrent therapy?

Microcurrent therapy is considered "relatively safe," according to 2021 research, and is pretty painless. But it's important to make sure you're still keeping up with the rest of your skincare routine. "People who have perfected creating a skincare regimen with SPF, a retinoid, and antioxidants that are looking for a low-risk way of improving skin firmness are good candidates for microcurrent therapy," says Dr. Lal.

The Best Microcurrent Facial Devices

Tatjana Freund is a Beauty Commerce Writer, covering makeup, skincare, and haircare products and trends. She's a fan of vodka tonics and creepy Wikipedia pages.

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